City Of San Jose Joins Group Aimed At Keeping Card Rooms Open

The City of San Jose took steps to make sure its two cardrooms, Bay 101 and Casino M8trix, stay open despite any possible future regulations from state and county officials that would shut them down.

Earlier this week, the City Council voted to unionize with other California municipalities that are home to medium-sized card rooms to ward off any regulations that could close the industry, according to a report from the San Jose Spotlight. The council voted to join the California Cities Gaming Authority by a 10-1 margin.

Bena Chang, the assistant to San Jose City Manager Dave Sykes, told the newspaper that the local government is too dependent on the tax revenue stemming from those properties to have them shut down again in the future.

“The bottom line is that card rooms really do provide the city with some needed revenue that goes into our general fund and provides basic city services,” said Chang.

In 2018 and 2019, the two properties generated $18.9 million in tax revenue. But revenue fell roughly 33% after COVID-19-induced closures.

Mayor Sam Liccardo was the only vote against joining the group, which is described as a joint-powers authority. Liccardo has consistently been against any sort of gaming expansion in the city.

The group acts in the same way a lobbyist would. A member from each city council must serve on the authority’s board and attend meetings. This gives the authority close relationships with stakeholders from the cardrooms in those cities and key figures in the legislative branches. The group hopes to rally support for casinos and influence policy measures by the state.

According to the agenda from the group’s most recent meeting in November, the cities of Colma, Gardena and Inglewood are already a part of the authority. Gardena and Inglewood are in Southern California and had the card rooms in their cities shut down by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s most recent stay-at-home order.

San Jose’s casinos weren’t affected by Newsom’s mandate, but Santa Clara County instituted strict regulations that forced the two card rooms to close.

San Jose was one of the first cities to work around the initial wave of shutdowns that started in March as the coronavirus started to gain traction in the U.S. The city allowed its casinos to build tents and operate outside as a way to mitigate the spread, while still allowing its citizens to play cards.

Other governments are facing similar problems when it comes to a lack of tax revenue. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he was allocating $500 million in his upcoming budget from online sports betting. He had previously been against the expansion of sports betting, citing constitutional concerns, but after his state coffers began to dry up, Cuomo switched positions.

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